A U.S. Army staff sergeant allegedly shot seven times by a comrade, psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, in a deadly 2009 shooting rampage at Ft. Hood, testified today that after being hit in the head and back, he played dead to avoid being killed.
In full dress-uniform, Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford stood in front of a military court and the man accused of shooting him, and pointed out the seven places bullets punctured his body.
"We were all in a state of shock. It was a state of panic," Lunsford said of the moment Hasan entered the fort's Soldier Readiness Processing Center, a busy building where unarmed soldiers were getting ready for upcoming deployments to Afghanistan, shouting "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is great," and opening fire.
"The first round, I'm hit in the head. Then I hit the floor. I'm then hit again in the back. ... I decided to play dead," Lunsford said. "But I realized dead men don't sweat."
Hasan is on trial for his life, accused of a shooting rampage that left 13 people dead and more than 30 wounded at Ft. Hood in Texas.
Hasan is representing himself, and was expected to cross examine witnesses. The drama of accused confronting the victims of his attack, however, did not come today because Hasan chose not to question Lunsford, the first witness called by the prosecution.
Hasan, a Muslim American, does not deny being the gunman. In a brief opening statement today at his trial, which opened at the fort where his shooting spree took place, he declared: "The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter."
Hasan called himself a "mujahedeen," or a Muslim holy warrior.
"We mujahedeen are imperfect soldiers trying to form a perfect religion. I apologize for any mistakes I made in this endeavor," he said.
Prosecutors accused Hassan of wanting to kill Americans as part of a plan to conduct a Muslim holy war or jihad.
"He didn't want to deploy and he came to believe he had a jihad duty to murder soldiers," said Col. Steve Henricks. He wanted to "kill as many soldiers as he could."
The trial, which is estimated to cost the federal government $5 million, opened under heavy security. Armed guards ringed the courthouse, surrounded by a fence of metal shipping containers stacked three high and specially constructed sand-filled barriers.
Hasan is wheelchair-bound because he was paralyzed when police shot him. He gets flown to the fort by helicopter from the nearby Bell County Jail. He must take a 15-minute break to stretch about every four hours, and has to lift himself off his wheelchair for about a minute every half hour to avoid developing sores.
Judge Col. Tara Osborn told a jury of 12 Army officers that the trial could take months to complete.
If found guilty, Hasan faces the death penalty. The court would not allow him to plead guilty, thereby automatically avoiding trial and, subsequently, the possibility of a death sentence.
The military has not executed an active duty U.S. serviceman since 1961.